Keeping it Fresh
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Written by Win Smith
As a young boy, I went to camp in Maine. We had a guide who used to take us on hiking and canoeing trips. I remember him showing us how to fill our canteens with fresh water from the best spots on a stream. I took it for granted that water was fresh and safe to drink. But as I grew up, I learned that one cannot take fresh water for granted and that we must all take responsibility for making sure that our waters remain pure for our, and future, generations.
Sugarbush has worked hard in the last two decades to make water quality a real priority for our business.
We have a team of seven employees who spend much of their time managing and overseeing our water quality initiatives. Our team works very closely with a number of state and federal agencies, and non-profit organizations, to help us do the work we do. Some of these organizations include Friends of the Mad River, the Mad River Watershed Conservation Partnership, Vermont Rural Water Association and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.
Our clean water initiatives fall into one of several categories: the management of stormwater, drinking water, and wastewater; and stream and brook health, which includes river water for snowmaking.
We operate under several stormwater discharge permits which govern the management of stormwater generated from resort-related development and land use. Stormwater is snow melt and rain water that runs off impervious surfaces rather than absorbing into the soil. Impacts of stormwater runoff can lead to destabilization of downstream channels and increased pollution in our waterways. At Sugarbush, we employ a variety of techniques to remove pollutants, and slow, spread and sink stormwater back into the ground before it enters the brooks and streams around us.
Many people may not know that Sugarbush also owns and runs a municipal-scale water system, Mountain Water Company, that supplies drinking water to much of our resort, and to many condominiums and homes that surround us. Our drinking water comes from the Clay Brook and thirteen bedrock wells, where water is pumped from depths of up to 800 feet. MWC uses energy-efficient pumping technology and lighting in producing our water, and operates in strict conformance with the US Environmental Protection Agency, the VT Agency of Natural Resources, and with the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
We also own and operate several wastewater treatment facilities. Lincoln Peak Wastewater Treatment and Mountain Wastewater Treatment are managed through a carefully controlled process that involves collection, filtration, aeration, and disinfection.
In the late 1990’s, the resort initiated a multi-year water quality remediation plan in collaboration with Vanasse Hangen Brustlin of Burlington and VT Agency of Natural Resources, which has resulted in the clean-up of several important brooks and streams. As a result in 2012, Sugarbush received the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence and was recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency for Rice Brook’s removal from the state’s “impaired waters” list.
The Mad River, which runs through the Mad River Valley, plays a crucial part in our business operation. When the river is at acceptable levels, we are able to withdraw water from the river into our snowmaking storage reservoir, which feeds our snowmaking operation at Lincoln Peak. In the spring, the snowmelt runs slowly down the mountain, back into the Mad River.
While many know us as a ski resort, I hope this will help you understand that we are also in the business of clean water. Being responsible for clean water is not only a legal and regulatory requirement, but it is the right thing to do, and it is good business.
This Saturday, August 26th, as part of Vermont Clean Water Week, we will host an Open House at our water and wastewater facilities from 11 AM – 3 PM. Open House attendees should start at the Lincoln Peak Wastewater Treatment Facility at 117 Inferno Road in Warren (the bottom of Lot G). Our utilities staff will educate visitors about the wastewater treatment process, where the resort’s drinking water comes from, and how we operate these complicated systems while protecting human health and the environment. Tours of the Lincoln Peak Wastewater Treatment Facility, Mountain Water Company and Mountain Wastewater Treatment Inc. will be available during this time.